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Don't Do This When Dining in Italy

Don't Do This When Dining in Italy

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Dreaming about a trip to Italy? You are probably not alone: According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization's newest study, Italy ranks at number five on a list of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. And as the home of pizza, pasta, and great wine, Italy is clearly a top target, especially for a travelers looking to see the world food first.

Click here to see the Don't Do This When Dining in Italy (Slideshow)

But while Italian cuisine is popular in countries all over the world, dining in Italy might still cause some confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to what and how to order. Clearly, the language barrier is there for anyone who doesn't speak Italian, and though most locals in bigger cities can converse in English, a basic knowledge of some simple Italian terms, as well as a pocket-sized dictionary, will definitely come in handy.

Besides the language barrier, getting accustomed to Italian culture and dining customs is a good idea if you're hoping to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings, or if you're looking to fit in with the locals. Especially since Italian food is so commonly known around the world, it might be easy to forget that Italian food and dining customs in Italy might not be the same as Italian food and dining customs in America.

For example, sitting down at an Italian restaurant in Italy and ordering the creamy, delicious fettuccine Alfredo might just make your waiter give you a confused look or smirk. This popular American-Italian dish basically does not exist in Italy, at least not under the name "Alfredo," and if you do find it, it probably won't be as creamy as you’d want it to be. Swirling your spaghetti up on a spoon before eating it or cutting into your pasta with a knife are also things you want to avoid if you're looking fit in among locals. And when it comes to breakfast, don’t expect a fluffy omelette or a pile of pancakes — in Italy, a strong espresso and a sweet pastry is usually the way to start a day. And as for the coffee, a black, strong, shot of espresso is what "un caffè" will get you — and get used to it, as one of the top clues that you're a tourist in Italy is to order a latte or cappuccino, especially in the afternoon or evening.

To know more about what you should and shouldn’t do to dine like a local during your next trip to Italy, click through our slideshow with tips of what not to do when dining in Italy.

Manners, Per Piacere! Essential Italian Eating Etiquette

Let's say you've secured that coveted ressie at Osteria Francescana, brushed up on your Italian, and packed the most Instagrammable outfits. The last thing to plan for your trip to Italy? How to fit in with the locals!

There are two types of travelers: those who make an effort to fit in to the local culture and those who don't give AF. Around here, we try to fit in, especially when it comes to eating out in Italy and etiquette.

True, we Americans may have nearly 150 years of Emily Post’s etiquette wisdom, but the Italians have us beat. Their definitive tome on table manners, known as Il Galateo, dates back to the Renaissance when Italy was ground zero for all things etiquette!

Yes, there's a wide range of dining experiences, so you can keep things super casual if you're noshing on street food, at a pizzeria, or a cafe. But, if your list of places to eat in Italy includes a ressie at a michelin star restaurant or you're heading to a classic ristorante, you'll need to know a few things about dining in Italy.

Here are our top dining etiquette tips to follow when traveling in Italy:

Don't Switch Your Knife And Fork

Some of the more classic Italian restaurants still have really traditional atmosphere and service -- we're talking white tablecloths, multiple waiters, and even multiple utensils.

First off, know that Italians do not switch knives and forks in other words, the whole time they eat, Italians keep the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left.

You May Be Given A Fish Fork And Knife

By the way, if you order fish at one of those traditional Italian restaurants, they might serve it with a fish fork and fish knife. A fish fork looks a three-pronged fork about the size of salad fork and the knife is like a larger, pointier butter knife. Use the knife (with the help of the fork) to remove the skin of the fish and to spread any sauce on the fish itself.

You May Have To Serve Food With A Spoon And Fork

Another utensil-related tip? If you're served a dish for sharing -- say a salad or side -- and it comes with either two spoons or both spoon and a fork, you're supposed to put them together and use them like old school tongs.

You've probably seen someone serve you bread like this in a nicer restaurant but in Italy you may have to do it for yourself. In a pinch you could of course, just scoop things off the plate with the spoon but this makeshift tong technique is actually really useful and, let's be real, impressive!

Use Your Utensils To Say If You Are (Or Aren't) Finished

Just like in the United States, you can use your utensils to indicate to your waiter that you're finished with your meal. To do so, place the knife and fork parallel to each other across the right side of the plate, with the tines of the fork facing down. Also, if you put your utensils down on the plate for any real length of time, it is a sign that you are finished and your plate may be cleared.

There May (Or May Not) Be A Bread Dish

Heads up that while most formal restaurants will have a bread dish, most casual cafes may not. If you don't have a bread plate, you can place the bread on your plate or directly on your table (especially if it's covered in butcher paper) throughout the meal. Oh, and just to clarify, having oil and vinegar with your bread is an American invention so you won't see it when you travel to Italy.

Always Show Your Hands

Our mothers made it crystal clear that placing our elbows on the table is an etiquette sin. But just because your elbows aren’t dinner guests doesn't mean your hands can stay hidden, folded in your lap. When in Italy, keep your hands in plain view while resting your wrists on the table to make sure you don't offend anyone.

And Avoid Public Intoxication

We're at the age where the thought of studying abroad is a mix of fond memories and some pretty horrid hangovers. Yes, you’ll inevitably indulge in some of most decadent wine or traditional aperitivo cocktails while traveling in Italy, but keep your wits about you. Put another way Italians don’t drink to get drunk so being wasted won't be a good look!

In Fact, Alcohol Usually Goes With Food

Along those lines Italians do not have a culture of sipping cocktails or chugging pitchers of beer sans food. You'll find that locals drink cocktails when at a meal, as part of aperitivo (like Italian happy hour), and even at a cocktail bar, but almost always there will be food present too.

Know Your Toasting Superstitions

Italian culture has some major superstitions, and it even extends the way they toast. In order to dodge bad luck, avoid toasting in Italy with water or crossing glasses during a celebratory “cheers.” Instead, toast with alcohol, maintain eye-contact, and say “Salute!” or “Cin cin.”

Keep Away From Condiments

Chefs are highly offended by the use of condiments on their meals, as it’s seen as masking the original flavor. While permissible for a burger or fries, it’s best to leave it at that.

Stand When You Drink Your Coffee

When you go to a "bar" (which, by the way is often more a cafe), you may pay two to three times more if you decide to rest at a table. Instead, make like the locals and stand at the counter!

Sometimes You Pay Before You Eat

For those who decide to stand at the bar, you actually pay before you eat. Especially common at coffee bars, you usually pay a cashier for what you plan to have, then take the receipt to the bar and order. How to know which process to follow? Just take a cue from the locals or ask the waiter!

Some Restaurants Only Take Cash

The Italians aren't as into their credit and debit cards as Americans are so there are restaurants that will not even take them. Some say it's to avoid the transaction fees others say it's for more evasive reasons but regardless know that you should double check if a restaurant takes credit cards (or that you have adequate cash) before you sit down to dine.

The Waiter Won’t Constantly Check In

For the most part, the waiter will take your order, deliver your food, and then leave you be. It's not that they're being lazy but rather that they want to let you enjoy your meal without distractions. That means if you want something from your waiter, you're going to have to grab his or her attention and specifically ask for it.

Along Those Lines, You Have To Ask For The Check In Italy

Along those lines, when you’ve finished your meal and are ready to go, be sure to ask for the check in Italian (say il conto (pronounced "eel cone-toe"). Because, unless it’s well past closing time, a waiter won’t put a bill on your table until it’s been requested.

By the way, if you want an itemized version of the bill, ask for il conto lungo otherwise, you might just be given a slip with a total dollar amount written on it.

The Person Who Invites Pays The Bill

Classically, in Italy, the person who does the inviting does the paying. Even so, it's considered standard that the invitee or guest makes an effort to pay.

Il Coperto Is Not A Tip

When you get your bill you may see a line item listed as "coperto," which is not a food item but rather a standard charge to cover the cost of the restaurant doing business (ie for the silverware, tablecloths, etc). Keep in mind this is not a tip but is a few Euro charge that is pretty standard to have added to the bill. But know that legally it should be noted on the menu whether the restaurant does include coperto charges.

Finally, know that in Lazio (the region where Rome is based), the coperto charge is illegal.

But Servizio Is A Tip

On the other hand the term servizio does in fact mean a tip or service charge. If servizio has been added to your bill, you don't need to leave any other tip unless you had the best service of your life. That being said, if all that’s been added to your bill is pane e coperto and you experienced good service, then you can leave something closer to 10%.

Keep in mind that waiters in Italy are compensated better than those in the United States, it is not customary to leave a 15 to 20% tip.

Tipping Is Not As Big A Thing In Italy

Bottom line is that tipping isn't mandatory in Italy but is appreciated for good service. At a bar, you can leave small change, at a hotel, tip 2 Euro for your porter, and, if servizio isn't included at a restaurant, leave 10% to 15%. Now that you know a bit about Italian dining etiquette here are our other top tips you should know before eating in Italy.

Any other tips you've learned while traveling in Italy? Leave them below!

Dining in Italy and the Mystery of the Missing Bread Plates

That title of this post sounds a little like a Nancy Drew Mystery Story, doesn&rsquot it? lol For this week&rsquos Tablescape Thursday, I thought I&rsquod share one of the dinners we were served while traveling in Italy.

The tour/trip I took included some lunches and most dinners. Sometimes our lunches didn&rsquot include meat and just consisted of salad, a large bowl of pasta and dessert. Drinks were usually already on the table when we arrived and consisted of water and wine. I wasn&rsquot used to drinking wine at lunchtime and often found it hard to stay awake on the bus ride that usually followed.

The day we visited Assisi, our lunch was held inside a restaurant located just below and down the long drive leading up to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. So, you know how all the guide books suggest when traveling to other countries that you stay open-minded and not expect things to be as they are in your home country. I totally understood that philosophy and felt like I had prepared myself pretty well. The one thing that consistently bugged me and I could never quite get used to was being served bread, but not being provided a bread plate.

In most restaurants, we would sit down to an empty table with glasses and wine/water lined up down the center of the table. A bread basket would be brought out or was sometimes already on the table. If you took a piece of bread, you were stuck holding it until your salad plate was brought out, then you could squeeze your bread onto the edge of your salad plate.

I always found it awkward holding the bread while trying to pour a glass of water. If I had torn or cut the bread to butter it, then I had two pieces of bread to hold until the salad plate arrived. The only alternative was to place your bread directly onto the table or tablecloth. I just couldn&rsquot bring myself to place my bread right onto the table or tablecloth, especially when buttered, so I ended up holding it until the salad arrived. Occasionally, I could find a small paper napkin on which to sit it.

For our lunch this day in Assisi, when we arrived at our table, the bread was sitting directly on the tablecloth beside our place settings. As I recall, that was the first time that I had seen the bread placed beside our place setting instead of in a bread basket on the table. This was the only thing that I couldn&rsquot quite understand during my time in Italy. It was a minor thing but just something that puzzled me during my time traveling and dining in Italy.

I remember there was one meal where we had a bread plate, so apparently bread plates are used on occasion. Maybe when you sit down and there&rsquos a bread basket already on the table, perhaps you&rsquore not supposed to eat the bread until the meal has been brought out. Then you would have a place to place your bread&ndashis that how it works? Well, no one in our group ever waited. We were always hungry and helped ourselves to the bread while waiting for our salads.

We had lasagna as our starter this day and it was very good!

Our meal did include a meat this day. We had chicken&hellipand it was also very good.

I wish I could remember the name of this dessert, not sure if I ever knew. Anyone recognize it? Thanks to Dawn for identifying the dessert as &ldquoProfiteroles&hellip..or cream puffs.&rdquo

Have you ever traveled to Italy and if so, was the bread already on the table? Was a bread plate provided? If not, did you wait until your meal was served to have a piece of bread?

If you are participating in Tablescape Thursday, please be sure to add your permalink below, and not your general blog address.

To get your permalink, click on your post name, then copy and paste the address showing in the address bar, into the &ldquourl&rdquo box when you link up. You&rsquoll need to include a link in your post back to the party to link up and participate.

That&rsquos so visitors to your blog will be able to find the party and the other Tablescape Thursday participants. Requiring a link back also prevents businesses and scammers from linking up to sell their products. (Yep, that really happens, unfortunately.)

Please, don&rsquot add your post name/blog name ALL IN CAPS&hellipit tends to create big spaces between the rows of links.

Please do not link up table settings that were just recently shared in the last few weeks for Tablescape Thursday.

What time do Italians eat dinner?

A lot of you are wondering online, what time do Italians eat dinner? well generally after 8.30 pm, but that really depends on family to family. Personally, I range between 8.30 and 9.30 pm. That’s because I usually wait until I’m hungry. Some of you might think that 8.30 is pretty late, but keep in mind that lunchtime is usually 1.00 pm (il Tocco) and 1.30 pm, and maybe around 4 or 5 you’ll grab an espresso with a little pastry (literally what I just did before updating this post) so you won’t be starving during when dinner comes around.

Our Favourite Italian Starters That Are More Than Just Garlic Bread

Let's face it, Italian Starters run superior to most other kinds of appetisers (sorry, not sorry). There's plenty of choice, a mixture of different ingredients and they're always incredibly delicious. Plus, a lot of the time they're pretty simple to make at home. So, whether you have a fancy dinner party coming up or just feel like treating yourself to a special homemade meal, check out some of our super easy and delicious Italian Starters now.

Nothing screams summer quite like bruschetta. Toasted bread gets rubbed with garlic (don't skip it, it's the best part) and topped with simply marinated tomatoes. The brighter and juicier your tomatoes, the better your bruschetta will be.

This salad is the epitome of summer in a bowl.

This is the easiest buffet appetiser that always wins.

This recipe is even wonderful when tomatoes aren't in season. In the oven, sad-looking slices take on a deeper, sweeter, more tomato-y flavour. If you don't want to make your own balsamic glaze, you can find it bottled at most grocery stores.

Caprese salad is the ultimate example of simple preparation with fresh ingredients making amazing food, not just to eat but look at. It is also the best way to show off any tomatoes you saw at the farmer's market or have in your backyard.

The secret to really good garlic bread is to keep it simple. And to use a lot of garlic&mdash4 cloves for one loaf!

Italian Food Rules – No Cheese on Fish

Filet o’ Fish with Cheese

Except for ordering a cappuccino or a caffellatte after your dinner, nothing is more likely to raise the ire of your Italian waiter than to ask for some grated parmesan to go on your spaghetti alle vongole or pasta al baccala’.

So, as you drive down Interstate 5 munching on your Filet o’ Fish with extra cheese, remember the Italian Food Rule: No Cheese On Fish.

The reasons for the rule are: logic, location, and tradition. But can there be change on the horizon?


Except for salt cod (baccala’), canned tuna, cured sardines and anchovies (acciughe), Italians believe fish should be eaten fresh, as close to the place and time that it is caught. Fish from the seas and rivers of Italy is mild tasting, delicate and needs to be treated with a light touch when it comes to seasoning. The milky saltiness of cheese will overwhelm the flavor of the fish. And fishy cheese is just hard to contemplate, much less swallow.

Hard to imagine, but the lunch of choice is a combo of fish sticks and cheese

But, you might argue, what about all of those strong flavors that are acceptable when cooking fish: capers, lemon, tomato, rosemary, fennel, olive, garlic, etc.?


On top of Fish Pasta all covered with cheese …

Italian cheese producing regions tends to be inland and landlocked: parmesan in the north, pecorino in the hills of Tuscany, and buffalo mozzarella to the east and south of Naples. Famed for fish are the Ligurian, Sicilian, Adriatic and Tuscan coastal towns. Italians have been living the Slow Food, zero kilometer lifestyle for centuries, not decades. The recipes celebrate the location and availability of fresh ingredients: where there is fish there isn’t cheese and visa versa.


Location and tradition meet in the recipes passed down for generations. Italians don’t move far from their places of birth and those places were city-states just 150 years ago. In Livorno, they argue over the types of shellfish and saltwater fish that should go into cacciucco (cheese never enters the discussion). As far as I know, in Bologna everyone is comfortable with adding more cheese on top of a cheesy sauce covering ravioli stuffed with cheese, but no one thinks of filling their ravioli with fish.

Fish swimming in cheese

Also, for centuries, tradition dictated that meat and dairy products were forbidden on Friday for religious reasons. Fish was the symbolic and nutritional replacement, but heaven forbade a topping of cheese.

Say It Ain’t So

The Italian Food Rule – No Cheese on Fish – sparks lively debates in the U.S. Da Silvano, a famous NYC restaurant has printed on the menu, “No cheese served on fish at any time.” A couple of years ago, competing chef Chuck Hughes was criticized on Iron Chef America when he combined lobster with cheese curds in a poutine (of course, that’s a French dish and what do they know?).

But then there is the guy on the Thinking With Your Stomach blog who came up with a tuna and melted cheese grilled sandwich.

The only acceptable combo of fish and cheese

Last year, in Bra, Italy, home of the Slow Food movement, at their Cheese 2011 conference one of my favorite seafood chefs, Luciano Zazzeri of La Pineta (on a Tuscan seaside beach) presented a class on matching cheese with fish.

The wry Robert Trachtenberg, writing Just Grate in the NY Times, found the oldest surviving “Sicilian recipe — from around 400 B.C. — for fish: ‘Gut. Discard the head, rinse, slice add cheese and oil.’” He also browbeat famous chefs in Rome and Venice until they admitted to serving fish pastas with cheese added in the kitchen.

Trachtenberg quotes the famed cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who speaks the truth when she said, “‘One of the great things about Italy is they love making rules. And they obey very few.’”

Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

No Splitting Bills

Once you have your bill, don’t expect to split it seven ways, one third in cash and the rest split between four credit cards. Although the more touristy restaurants might be prepared for complicated bill-splitting, most Italian restaurants won’t be.

Many restaurants have pretty simple cash registers, and fees for charging credit cards are high, meaning that charging multiple cards cuts into their already slim margins. Plus, when it comes to customer service, Italians don’t always feel the need to accommodate requests that they find unreasonable. In general, be prepared to figure out the bill amongst your party, and then pay it, either in cash or on one credit card. Some magical places make an exception- but consider this is not the cultural norm.

Italians are great at taking something simple, and complicating it with extra steps, rules, and variations. This is bad when it comes to bureaucracy, and great when it comes to pasta. It’s easy to understand why getting acquainted with Italian culture is best done at the dinner table, not the post office. Armed with these rules, a little bit of patience and a big appetite, you’re ready to dive in and fall in love with Italian food!

8 Things at Olive Garden That Real Italians Would Never Do

With dozens of mix-and-match pasta possibilities (or, should we say, pastabilities), it's the big, creamy bowl of Olive Garden's Chicken Alfredo that continues to top the restaurant's list of most-popular entrees. Sliced grilled chicken is served over tender fettuccine pasta and doused in OG's signature homemade Alfredo sauce, which is made from scratch daily. We think that's exactly what the restaurant's iconic breadsticks are for — mopping up all that rich cream sauce.

Ah, Olive Garden. Home of deep-fried lasagna, never-ending pasta, and unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. This cult-favorite chain is known for its Italian-inspired cuisine, but how authentic is it really? Read on to find out the MAJOR differences between Olive Garden and an authentic Italian eatery.

Let’s start with the salad. OG is known for its house salad, aka the bottomless bowl of greens that is set on the table at the start of each meal. It’s topped with Olive Garden’s signature Italian dressing, and while "Italian" might be in the name, it is 100 percent NOT authentic. Olive Garden’s Italian dressing is packed with tons of ingredients, including a variety of oils, vinegar, eggs, salt, cheese and garlic. In Italy, however, most salads are relatively simple and topped with just salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

Olive Garden’s breadsticks are iconic. We’re not knocking them. Those warm and fluffy sticks of dough are what dreams are made of. Unfortunately, despite their deliciousness, these breadsticks are not Italian. Real Italian breadsticks, called "grissini," are longer, skinnier and hard enough to snap in half.

Just… no. An Italian would NEVER be caught eating a bowl of Fettuccini Alfredo. This Olive Garden menu item was created by Americans for Americans. The closest authentic Italian dish to Fettuccini Alfredo is Pasta in Bianco (white pasta). This meal consists of pasta mixed with butter, olive oil and cheese, and it’s usually served as a comfort food to children with upset tummies and pregnant women experiencing morning sickness.

You know when your pasta arrives with a dollop of sauce on top that hasn’t been mixed in yet? Turns out, that little topper of marinara or Alfredo sauce should have been mixed in before the plate arrives. At an authentic Italian restaurant, the chef will not only toss your pasta with the sauce, but he or she will also splash of some leftover pasta water on top, which ensures that each piece of pasta will be perfectly coated in sauce.

5. Parmesan Cheese Overload

Don’t get us wrong — pasta topped with Parmesan cheese is AMAZING. We know firsthand that it’s nearly impossible to say "stop" as the Olive Garden server grates fresh cheese over your meal. However, Italians will sometimes pass on the Parm altogether, as it actually masks the flavor of the pasta. Instead of Parmesan, Italians are known to sprinkle a lil Pecorino Romano cheese on their pasta for a touch of salty goodness.

Meatballs are thought to have originated in a number of places, including Sweden, Turkey and, of course, Italy. And while meatballs are a staple in Italian cooking, the ones seen at Olive Garden are waaaay off. Authentic Italian meatballs are typically small and served on their own — instead of on a bed of pasta. The monstrous meatballs at Olive Garden have, well, too much meat.

7. Chicken Served with Pasta

It may not sound like a huge faux pas, but chicken served within a pasta dish is practically unheard of in Italy. Olive Garden’s Chicken Carbonara and Chicken Scampi break one of the Golden Rules of Italian food: Thou shall only eat chicken in the second course. The reason why? Italians stagger how they eat. First comes salad, then pasta or risotto, then meat or fish. This keeps the palette clean and the flavors and textures separate.

8. Beverages Other Than Water or Wine

Coca-Cola? Never heard of her. Olive Garden boasts a wide selection of beverages on its menu, from beer and cocktails to smoothies and lemonade. But Italians would *probably* never sip on anything other than water or wine during dinner. Italian chefs put loads of time and consideration into choosing top-notch ingredients for their dishes, so you don’t want to overpower those flavors with a fizzy drink. Italians stick to bottled water or a wine that complements the food.

Italian cooking myths: We don't use a lot of garlic, and it doesn't take us all day to cook a good sauce

Being a chef may not be genetic, but perhaps more research is needed on that.

For Victoria Caruso, cooking is a birthright, passed from her mother, Anna Alaimo, who was born and raised in Sicily.

"I come from a family of chefs," says Caruso, who operates Anna's La Bella Italia Redmill with her mother and brother, Marco Scaramellino.

Brother Andrea DiCarlo owns and operates Norfolk's Andrea's La Bella in Ghent.

"My mom is a great chef. I also remember spending my summers in Sicily growing up where my aunt cooked farm-to-table at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I helped her make fresh tomato paste, jarring tomato sauce, preserving fresh olives. It does not get better than that."

Caruso moved to Virginia Beach in 1990 with her family from Brooklyn, and Alaimo opened the first La Bella Italia (since sold but still open) off Laskin Road near the Oceanfront. The Red Mill store has been open since 2003.

"I have been cooking since I was 8, but professionally since I was 16. I have always cooked at my mother's restaurants."

It's not surprising, then, who Caruso says is her inspiration in the kitchen.

"My mother is my inspiration. She set a standard, and has always taught each one of us to never compromise for price. Quality ingredients are most important. You must love what you do and it will show in your cooking."

What is your favorite thing about being a chef? I love the immediate satisfaction of knowing how happy I have made my customers. I also love teaching and inspiring others to do the same.

Where do you find inspiration for dishes? First I think of what is fresh for that week. Once I know my proteins, I start to think of other fresh ingredients that work well with each protein. I then create a few dishes to test out and from there I tweak until my mom is satisfied with the final dish.

What's a signature dish of yours? The Mediterranean Rockfish the fish is lightly coated with extra virgin oil, sea salt then perfectly grilled. Served over grilled asparagus, it's then topped with a salad of grape tomatoes, thinly sliced garlic, fresh mint and parsley and drizzled with extra virgin, aged balsamic and a sprinkling of Greek feta.

What are some misconceptions about Italian food? That we use a lot of garlic and that our sauce takes all day to cook. Realistically our tomato sauce cooks in less than an hour.

Any advice to aspiring chefs? Love what you do, be willing to work hard and never compromise.

What are some favorite ingredients to cook with? Fresh pasta, fresh fish and extra virgin olive oil.

What do you cook on your night off? At home, usually something simple I love making a simple, quick marinara sauce with fresh basil and fry up some fresh eggplant and then toss with spaghetti and pecorino romano.

What are some tips for the home chef? Seasoning is key. Do not be afraid of salt the biggest mistake most chefs make is to not season their food. Taste each dish to assure it tastes good enough for you. Spend the extra few dollars and buy a better oil extra virgin olive oil should be your go to. Also, less is more do not over sauce or use too many different ingredients. Keep things fresh and vibrant.

What are some pantry must-haves for the home chef? A KitchenAid mixer, good cutting board, sauté pans various sizes, a food processor, and a meat tenderizer for equipment. For ingredients, a good olive oil, kosher salt, cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes, dried herbs, and boxes of dry pasta.

What's a favorite knife? Henkel 8-inch chef knife is what I use daily, but also invest in a good serrated bread knife like Wusthof.

What's a favorite dish for summer? Since we make our homemade mozzarella in-house every day, a simple caprese salad is perfect for summer. The cheese is layered with ripened tomatoes and fresh basil in our homemade vinaigrette dressing.

8 American Dining Customs You Won’t Find in Italy

Oberrichter Restaurant in Malborghetti, Val Canale, Udine (Photo by Johann Jaritz via Wikimedia Commons)

There are certain cultural customs that don’t always translate in a foreign country. What you’re used to at home isn’t always accepted in the place you are visiting. In Italy, you can be sure that most people are very serious about their food and, by extension, the places they eat it. Here are some tips to avoid an embarrassing faux pas while dining in Italy:

1. Sandals and Shorts at Dinner

Meals are events for Italians and a way to gather together and socialize, so looking good is always a priority. While you may sometimes see Italians at the beach eating in shorts and flip flops the preferred dress code is decidedly more stylish and elegant. Think a chic dress, long pants, and a nicer sandal or closed shoe.

2. Parmesan Cheese on a Pizza

Individual tastes always vary, but on the whole Italians don’t eat parmesan cheese on pizza. In some cases requesting such an alteration will even upset the chef. This is not because Italian chefs are like Seinfeld‘s Soup Nazi. It is just that many of them prepare foods with certain ingredients to achieve an exact final taste and presentation. Altering it kills the exact execution of the dish. It’s not about being snobby, but about being proud of the product you serve your customers.

3. Parmesan Cheese on Seafood

Again, just don’t do it. Or at least not while you’re in Italy. Even when pasta is involved. Some people may not be aware, but Italians don’t eat cheese on all types of pastas, rather only on the ones that will be enhanced by the taste of the cheese.

4. Iced Water

Generally water in Italy is served cool but without ice. In fact, most drinks are served straight up. Once again this is a custom that is in place to preserve the integrity and taste of the drink. Taste to Italians is more important than temperature and ice waters down a drink. If, however, you have a craving for a few ice cubes simply ask politely and they will likely be provided.

5. All Meals All Day Long

The majority of Italian restaurants close after lunch (between 3 and 7pm) and are usually closed for breakfast. Hungry in the morning? Most Italians take their coffee (espresso) or cappuccino at a bar, often standing, along with a light breakfast like a croissant. If it’s an American-style breakfast you crave, make sure to eat at your hotel. Usually, downtown and in tourist areas, restaurants are open most of the day but this isn’t always the case, especially for traditional, family-owned establishments. Don’t fret, though. If you get a snack attack at an inopportune moment there is always fast food.

6. Eating Quick, Getting Your Bill Delivered Unrequested and Set-In-Stone Closing Times

Have you ever been finishing up your meal and had a server set down your bill, basically you shooing you out the door? This rarely–if ever–happens in Italy. The culture is all about having slow, leisurely meals and enjoying the time around the dinner table with family and friends. In Italian restaurants the bill comes when you ask for it. Servers don’t work for tips so they’re not in a rush to ensure they get a high turnover. And most restaurants will stay open until the last customer is ready to leave. Just remember to be courteous. If it’s late ask for your bill and head out.

Italy does not have a big tipping culture. If the service is outstanding, and the restaurant is rather exclusive, then leave the customary 10%. It is also a nice idea to leave whatever is left from the change of your bill or a small amount of money. If you pay by credit card you can skip the tip or leave a small amount of cash behind. Most credit card receipts in Italy don’t give the option of leaving a tip as they do in North America.

8. Bill Splitting

Many restaurants are still reluctant to provide separate bills for a group dining out. In Italy it’s customary to divide the amount by the number of people rather than by exactly what everyone ate. If one person had a small amount or food or drink the others will usually pick it up for them.


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  2. Doule


  3. Hadwyn

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  6. Tomlin

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